Content POV: The Kalb Report – 2023 NYF Storyteller’s Gala Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Our special edition of Content POV celebrates the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, The Kalb Report and features a look back on the long-running public broadcast series hosted by eminent journalist Marvin Kalb.
Courtesy for the panorama photo is Bruce Guthrie.
For 2023 New York Festivals TV & Film Awards/Radio Awards will honor The Kalb Report, the iconic public broadcasting series with the New York Festivals® Lifetime Achievement Award.
The New York Festivals Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes prominent industry leaders, innovators, and driving forces in the broadcast industry whose accomplishments have advanced their field and made a lasting impression on the industry.
After 28 years and 103 programs, the longest-running and most successful long-term project in National Press Club history, The Kalb Report public broadcasting series, comes to a close this spring as moderator Marvin Kalb and his long-time friend and fellow network news correspondent Ted Koppel look back, around, and ahead at the challenges for both journalism and our democracy in The Kalb Report: Good Night and Good Luck.
“This is the last in a series of more than 100 interviews I've done with journalists and others dating back to 1994. It's different in only one respect. For the first time, I am being interviewed, not the other way around, says Kalb. “Ted Koppel, my friend and colleague, no newcomer to asking probing questions, is doing the interview. It's a concluding opportunity for me to express my own views about the current state of journalism, about its continuing central importance to maintaining American democracy, which I described as ’fragile,’ constantly in need of fresh reinforcements of truth, honesty and honor to survive. I said American democracy has never been a sure thing. It now desperately needs a vibrant, unafraid corps of get-up-and-go journalists. But as it has survived other significant challenges in its history, so it may yet again, believing as I do that, as Ed Murrow told me many years ago, a free press tied to a robust judicial system can assure a fresh flow of democratic values guaranteeing a continuation of American democracy.”
Interwoven into the program are video excerpts and photographs from past Kalb Reports, as well as of Kalb as he reported for CBS News during the Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite eras.
“In many of the interviews I did for The Kalb Report, I found new reasons for believing that our dynamic press will help our democracy survive all its current challenges. This episode concludes an exciting adventure in the continuing study of American democracy, with its special focus on the modern media.”
Perhaps the program that Kalb most enjoyed was the 2014 joint appearance of Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who despite disagreeing on many court decisions, were close personal friends.
Marvin asked them to select one freedom that is most essential to the functioning of a democracy. Scalia said freedom of speech, because democracy depends on open discussion, while Ginsberg said freedom of the press. A free press is a watchdog of government and keeps government “from getting too far out of line,” she said.
When Kalb interviewed Walter Cronkite, the legendary CBS News anchor once known as “the most trusted man in America,” in 1998 he said something prescient that has become a central issue today. Kalb asked if he were concerned that politicians who don’t like the press would push for legislation to contain it, opening the way to a totalitarian state.
The response, Kalb said, was that Cronkite believed democracy was not in danger – unless the Supreme Court loses its objectivity and becomes too closely connected with a political party or a political movement.
“It sounds almost as if Walter was taking a peek into the future and seeing us today,” Koppel said.
Also highlighted throughout the 28-year run was the expanding role of women in the upper levels of journalism. Diane Sawyer, the first female correspondent on “60 Minutes” remembered her early days:
“I knew I was in trouble when the entire group of the 60 Minutes correspondents walked down the hall on something really important and said, ‘Here's what we're going to do,’ and ended it in the men's room.”
The Kalb Report was created in 1994 when Kalb was on a one-year sabbatical from Harvard University to return to Washington to teach at George Washington University (GW). Kalb was the last correspondent personally hired by Edward R. Murrow, and his career had taken him around the world as the CBS News Chief Diplomatic Correspondent. He was later moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press before leaving the networks after more than 30 years to become the founding director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
At GW, Kalb found a partner in former CBS Radio Network General Manager Michael Freedman, who went on to become Club president in 2020.
Michael Freedman, Executive Producer, The Kalb Report.
Freedman brought Kalb to the Club to present the idea for the series to then-President Gil Klein, who quickly embraced it. The first of nine programs for the first season was produced on Sept. 29, 1994, and Freedman remained executive producer for the entire 28-year run.
Michael Freedman, Executive Producer of The Kalb Report with Marvin Kalb, Host.
Freedman arranged grants to produce the series, with Oklahoma based Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, a division of Inasmuch Foundation, underwriting the project for the past two decades, and he successfully worked to get programs aired on public television stations across the country as well as on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and Federal News Radio in Washington. Maryland Public Television has served as “presenting station” for the series for past several years.
From the beginning, Kalb said the purpose was to bring top journalists and newsmakers to the Club for an hour-long discussion of the state of journalism and politics that would attract students as well as Club members. By the end of the first program, Kalb said he could see that the defining theme for the series was the news media’s impact on American democracy.
“Over nearly three decades, The Kalb Report has followed the sometimes-tortuous course of American journalism as it has endured one of the most radical changes in history,” Freedman said in summing up the show’s impact.
Marvin Kalb “March on Washington Report” with Rep. John Lewis.
“Time and again, Marvin and his guests have highlighted the essential work of a free and non-partial news media to democracy, and by working with students during the entire run, we hope we have passed that legacy on to the next generation, said Freedman”
Cokie Roberts and Marvin Kalb.
In addition to Justices Scalia and Ginsburg, Walter Cronkite, and Diane Sawyer, guests over the years have included Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (together), Ken Burns, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour, Civil Rights icons John Lewis, Julian Bond and Andrew Young (together), Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, Hillary Clinton, David McCullough, Cokie Roberts, Dan Rather, Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bob Costas, Dean Baquet and Marty Baron (together), Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Jake Tapper, Judy Woodruff, Eugene Robinson, Lesley Stahl, Sam Donaldson, Nina Totenberg, Susan Stamberg, Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer, Richard C. Hottelet, Don Hewitt, Casey Murrow, Daniel Schorr, Gwen Ifill, Chris Wallace, Helen Thomas, Charles Gibson, Brit Hume, and Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel.
Astronaut Michael Collins with Marvin Kalb.
The Kalb Report series was most recently honored with a 2018 Gold World Medal in the New York Festivals Radio Awards competition. The series also received Gold World Medals in 2015 and 2012, when it was presented the organization’s overall Grand Award.
Marvin Kalb at NYF Radio Awards Gala.
In addition to moderator Marvin Kalb and Executive Producer Michael Freedman, The Kalb Report team has included Senior Producer Heather Date, announcer Dick Golden, and producers Tiina Kreek, D. Scott Graham, Lindsay Underwood, Bob Ludwig, Gil Klein, Kat Bugg, Avi Feinberg, Meaghan Calnan, Maeve Duggan, Jill Kasle and Elissa Rubin.
The web editor is Bryan Kane. The series engineer is Randy Hall. The series has been directed by Robert Vitarelli, Shelly Schwartz, and D. Scott Graham. National Press Club Executive Director William McCarren has overseen all logistics for on-site programs, use of the Broadcast Operations Center and Club online components.
While The Kalb Report series concludes with the current program, thanks to Inasmuch Foundation and the National Press Club, past programs will be digitized and archived for educational and research purposes. The archive will live on The Kalb Report website kalbreport.org
The Kalb Report is a joint project of the Club, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, University of Maryland Global Campus, the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, and the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.
In summing up the series, Freedman said, “We strived to have the courage of our convictions in our selection of topics, guests and questions, and we have sought to make a positive difference in the lives of current and aspiring journalists, as well as our national audience of listeners and viewers.” He cited as one example a University of Missouri student who came up to Kalb after a program and said, “I came in thinking I wanted to go into journalism. I left knowing I must go into journalism.”
About The National Press Club
Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the U.S. and worldwide.